SDN has worked with six communities across Rivers and Bayelsa states in the Niger Delta to develop highly effective Community Monitoring and Advocacy Groups (CMAGS) that act as advocates for improved development in their communities. Since 2018, these CMAGs have helped to secure development projects with an estimated value of more than N4.3bn (c.GBP£8m) for the 265,480 people living in their communities, with 41 projects, worth N3.4bn already delivered.
Despite the natural resource wealth of the region, the Niger Delta remains under-developed, suffering insecurity and very high rates of unemployment. Over time this has contributed to a distrust and disconnect between the public and duty bearers (elected politicians and officials). In an attempt to bridge this divide, SDN has been working in communities to create CMAGs across communities in Rivers and Bayelsa states to engage duty bearers on their communities’ priorities for development and service delivery.
The value of development projects that CMAGs have helped secure to date demonstrates how effective collective community action can be, and the power of citizens to bring about positive changes to the way things work in the Niger Delta. With multi-year funding from the Dutch Embassy, we were able to commit to the longer term-support needed to build trust in communities and develop CMAGs and their priorities in a way that won acceptance. For example, SDN ensured CMAG members were diverse and representative of their communities, including marginalised members such as young people, women, and people living with disabilities.
“We are recognised by our Community Head and Chiefs in Council as a group that represents the Community. We will not relent in chasing our duty bearers to ensure development comes to this community”– Collins Ndegwe, Chairman Nonwa CMAG
SDN working closely with the communities
SDN also ensured CMAG priorities were aligned with those of their communities by helping them create village ‘charters’ in which anyone in the community could suggest development needs, and everyone would vote on what they felt was most important. Lastly, SDN trained CMAG members in the skills needed to help secure these projects from duty bearers and oil companies operating in the region, such as leadership, advocacy, campaigning, and mobilisation.
“…We have made very good progress in advocating for our needs. We never thought it was possible to do the things we do now, but with the knowledge we acquired, we have gained positive results. If anybody had told me that I would directly engage with Shell, I never would have believed. I am very proud to be a channel of development in my community…”– Nordee Buabee, Chairman—Kpite CMAG
In Rivers State, there are now CMAGs in Kpite, Ogu, and Nonwa communities, and in Bayelsa State, there are CMAGs in Imiringi, Biseni, and Gbarain communities. Each of these CMAGs have helped to secure development projects in their respective communities. The types of projects range from infrastructure such as road drainage in Kpite and the construction of an ultra-modern market in Ogu, to the training of over 80 young people on DSTV installation and agricultural entrepreneurship in Imiringi. We aim to have the opportunity to scale up the success of CMAGs across more communities, however, we have created a guide to help existing CMAGs maintain their standards and train new members, as well as outline to communities without CMAGs, how they could go about creating their own.